Thursday, November 25, 2010
Sao Joaquim, Santa Catarina, mile 385, November 25, 2010
Today started out MUCH better than yesterday. I awoke in Lages and, while cloudy, it was not raining, nor did it look like it would rain. Shortly before 9AM, I retrieved my evaporative bicycle water bottle, and two additional bottles from the hotel´s freezer, and placed the extra bottles in my Camelback. (Over five hours later, the second of these still had a little cylinder of ice in it, and was freezing cold.) I then rode through downtown Lages, and headed south for a mile and a half or so through town. At the southern edge of town, I stopped at an ESSO station, and bought a 12 oz can of Coke for my Camelback, and an 8 oz (something I had not seen before in Brazil) can for consumption there. The girl at the counter asked where I was going, and when I told her Sao Joaquim, her response was ¨Puxa!!!!!!!¨, which means, basically, ¨no bloody way.¨ I decided it would not be good for morale to ask her why she seemed so shocked, so I just grinned and said, that´s right, drank my little Coke, and got on my way.
Below is a link to a page that has some very good photos of SC 438, if you click on it, the first two photos you see will be what I did today, and the othere will be what is waiting for me tomorrow:
One of the photos in the above link shows stone fences; these are EVERYWHERE in the fields along the road, and makes me imagine I am riding in Ireland. For the first ten miles or so, the highway was fairly level, I kept riding up to about 3,000 feet and then back down to 2,900. The scenery was some of the most beautiful so far on this trip. Then, the fun started. At about 11 miles into the ride, over five miles, I climbed from 3,100 to 4,200 feet. Up, up and up. Once up at altitude, I rode along for a few miles, coming back down to 3,900 feet or so, and came to the little town of Painel, which was, as a matter of fact, the only town I saw today. In Painel, I stopped and bought a Coke, and then continued along. I rode a few more miles, got back to just about 4,000 feet, and then, over three miles and in a little over five minutes, dropped 750 feet, at an extremely high rate of speed. This descent brought me down to a little river, after which, the first law of bicycling kicked in: ¨That which goes DOWN must come back UP.¨ The next three miles took a lot longer than five minutes, to say the least. Over the next seven or eight miles, I worked my way back up to 4,000 feet, and then got another rocketing descent, although this one was only about 400 feet. Then, I climbed back to 4,000 feet again, where it decided to start to rain.
I stopped the bike on the side of the road, drank some water, and then put on my windbreaker. Within five minutes, the rain stopped (naturally), the sun came out, and I began to cook inside that windbreaker. Now about 40 miles into the ride, I stopped yet again, took the windbreaker back off, and continued on. At this point, I was maybe at 3,700 feet. In a few miles, my last climb of the day began, and it was a monster. Over about three miles, I went from 3,700 feet up to 4,470 feet, including over 300 feet in the last mile. I was dripping sweat like a race horse by the end of this. I finally saw a sign that said welcome to Sao Joaquim, and at that sign (the absolute highest point of the ride), found, to my unmitigated joy, a gas station, where I rolled in and bought another Coke. The attendant asked where I was coming from, and when I said Lages, he opined that that was a heck of a hill I had just climbed. I agreed. The Portugese word for ¨climb¨, (the noun) is ¨subida¨, just like in Spanish (¨drop¨, however, is not just like Spanish, it is ¨descida¨, not ¨bajada¨.), and I said it was quite a ¨subida¨. He said ¨wait till tomorrow, you´ve got a ¨subidao¨ (mega-subida) on the way to Bom Jardim da Serra coming up.¨ I can hardly wait.
Done with my Coke, I rode into town, and made a circuit of the downtown area, which is not much, maybe two city blocks, before settling on a cheap looking hotel (R$35), and checking in. They gave me a decent room, locked my bike in the store room, and sold me three more bottles of water, which I immediately gave back to them to freeze for tomorrow. I have a feeling I am going to be beyond 5,000 feet high tomorrow; the good thing is I think this is the last of it. It ought to be all downhill after tomorrow to the beach.
I mentioned yesterday seeing ¨Tropa de Elite 2¨, which is all about violence in Rio de Janeiro. As if on schedule, violence in Rio is all over the news today. The favela gangs are raising cain, stopping cars on freeways and assaulting the drivers, and the PMs have killed, officially, 15 gang members. The real number is probably triple that. Below, another link to a BBC story on the issue.
On my way out this morning, I looked at the Diario Catarinense, which is the principal Florianopolis (state capital) newspaper, and the coverage was almost hysterical. If you think violence in Tijuana is hyped up by the press in the US, you truly ain´t seen nothing yet. If this violence keeps up, it might cause plane ticket to Rio prices to drop, and I am halfway minded to look up what it would cost to fly from Porto Alegre to Rio for a couple of days. I haven´t been to Rio in seven years...
The weather forecast for the rest of the week is good, so I will either be in Bom Jesus da Serra tomorrow, or maybe a little further along.